It’s no secret. Drake enjoys dipping his toes in many different sonic pools. He has been labeled a “culture vulture” by many (including myself) for his tendency to continuously re-live his stellar verse from Nothing Was the Same promo single “Wu-Tang Forever”. Its stickiest line being: “I just gave the city life, it ain’t about who did it first / It’s ’bout who did it right”. That formula has proven to benefit Drake year after year as he propels less celebrated genres and lesser known artists into the limelight either by direct co-sign or musical theft allegations. However, what makes this project special, in my opinion, is that it features Drake doing his best to reverse that mentality for the first time in his storied career.
Since JAY Z reinvented how to go platinum; since Kanye West digitally remastered the landscape of hip-hop; since Beyoncé made the surprise album a thing, Drake has been looking for his groundbreaking moment. Sure, Views sold a million units in the first week, If You’re Reading This caught us all off-guard, and Take Care paved the way for rap vulnerability. But even with those accomplishments under his belt, the 6 God wasn’t the first to do them. He simply has executed them more effectively than anyone else ever has. The streaming and sales records that Views has broken are impressive, but I am one who does not parallel popularity with quality.
Drake is billing this project as a playlist instead of a mixtape, album, or compilation. Why he chose to go this route is still hazy, but I believe it is because Drake is looking to the future, attempting to station himself well ahead of the curve by changing the way popular music is consumed. Premiering on the 39th episode of his Beats 1 OVO Sound Radio show, More Life became the first major project enjoyed by all its fans at the exact same time. For a moment, because of Drake’s universal appeal and global fandom, the world stood still.
Whether or not this “playlist” format will take off in the coming months via up-and-comer experimentation is a mystery. With More Life Drake seems to exercise an artist’s opportunity to function more as a curator as opposed to being a primary presence on a project. He barely appears on tracks like “Get It Together” and “Portland,” includes three interludes on which he isn’t heard at all, and often gets overshadowed by his guests. More Life could be foreshadowing Drake releasing smaller playlists that include his own feature verses and artists he thinks deserve attention in the not-so-distant future.
That’s why I think this release is a signature moment for Drizzy. If other big-named artists follow in his footsteps and start dropping bite-sized compilations, this could lead to artists being able to hold over their fans for longer without having to give away precious studio gems prematurely. Those are just a couple possibilities, though. Speculation aside, this playlist hits on nearly every Drake-styled soundscape from the past eight years. More Life is an easy-listening blend of pop, trap, and Caribbean palettes that result in a kind of sonic collage rather than a meticulous discographical centerpiece.
The music here is beyond serviceable and plays precisely as well in order as it does on shuffle. It truly embodies a playlist in that manner. However, this project does leave much to be desired despite being thoroughly more defensible than Views. I criticized Drake for his lackadaisical lyrical contributions in my previous review. This time around, his bars have tightened up and even managed to exceed my expectations on tracks like the aggressive opener “Free Smoke,” the reflective “Can’t Have Everything,” and the authentic closing cut “Do Not Disturb”.
More Life‘s production shines brightest on “Gyalchester,” “Sacrifices,” “Madiba Riddim,” and “Passionfruit” (this one just makes me feel happy, man – very happy). There are a few underwhelming beats, though. PARTYNEXTDOOR collaboration “Since Way Back,” although being a personal favorite, lacks a healthy amount of zest. It’s slightly too woozy for its own good. “Lose You” also feels like it’s missing one or two background elements to make it stick out in the track list. Additionally, “Ice Melts” with Young Thug suffers from poor mixing and lacks typical memorable lines we are accustomed to hearing from these two.
Speaking of underwhelming, “Glow” featuring Kanye West might be one of both artists’ worst tracks. Drake’s singing voice is horrendous here; like he’s trying way too hard to outshine Kanye on a song suited more for West’s singing range. Yeezy’s voice is in its comfort zone on this track yet he sounds uncharacteristically forgettable in his verse. Drake’s strained vocals breed involuntary track skips and stink faces. The only way to outdo Kanye is to out-rap him. Neither Drake nor Kanye are great singers but they each make their voices work in their favor by staying in their vocal lane. I believe Drake should have flexed in his verse in his calm “Don Drizzy” tone to make “Glow” a heavyweight collab for the ages. Whether Drake couldn’t find the right key or was petty to the point where he didn’t want the Kanye-affiliated track to be considered the best track on the playlist, this song should have been much, much better.
More Life is without a doubt a step up from Views, but the music here still isn’t top-tier quality. This playlist is an artistic statement at its core, though. And it has a smooth, cohesive gloss spread over top of it. Drake is giving his fans exactly what they need at this moment in time: something trendy, genuine, and varied enough to free up some time for him to explore new entertainment avenues or gear up for his next major album – or both. Disorganized cohesion is no small feat and should be applauded. I appreciate this release following the painfully mediocre Views. This is not his best work, but More Life does mark a comeback of sorts of the Drake we know and love.